Can sex offenders be rehabilitated behind bars?

Can sex offenders be rehabilitated behind bars?

Terence Pillay meets a young woman opposing her abuser’s parole application because she believes he has not been sufficiently rehabilitated in prison and fears he will abuse again.

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Candice Bowman feels let down. The young woman was sexually abused at the hands of her stepfather for nine years from the time she was just seven years old. He was eventually arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to serve fifteen years, but he is now eligible for parole after serving less than half of that sentence.

Candice doesn’t believe that he is sufficiently rehabilitated and will hurt others, if not come after her if he is granted this parole, so she is vehemently opposing his application – as is her right in mitigation to the Parole Board.

The question of parole for sex offenders was brought into the spotlight by President Cyril Ramaphosa in September last year when the rape and murder of a university student shocked the nation. At the time, the president vociferously spoke out against parole for sex offenders, saying that South Africa was in the grip of a serious crisis against women and children and it demanded urgent action.

He told a joint sitting of the Nation Assembly and National Council of Provinces that harsher punishment is needed and that the government intends this to include the state opposing bail for rape and femicide suspects and for those who are convicted to be refused parole. He also said that men who are sentenced to life in prison for these crimes must never be released.  

That was four and a half months ago. Since then, there has been no movement from the government to address these issues and abusers like Candice’s may walk after only serving a fraction of their sentence.

Marc Hardwick of the Guardian also feels that there are huge challenges when it comes to the rehabilitation of sex offenders (especially paedophiles) when they are behind bars. He says it’s like teaching someone to swim in a pool that has no water because paedophilia is a disorder and can’t really be treated while the convict is still in prison.

In light of his parole application, Candice has upped her security at her home and taken out a protection order against her abuser because she firmly believes he will repeat his criminal behaviour.

Do you believe that paedophiles can be rehabilitated behind bars? You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts. 

Also read: Ty Keogh from M-Net’s series 'Still Breathing' chats to Terence Pillay

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